Prep Sports

A stressful time for high school athletics

HS journalism: North Linn AD Mike Hilmer facing 'good stress' right now

North Linn head coach Bob Hilmer Mike Hilmer takes a drink during the fourth quarter of their quarterfinal game of the S
North Linn head coach Bob Hilmer Mike Hilmer takes a drink during the fourth quarter of their quarterfinal game of the State Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Monday, Mar. 5, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Mike Hilmer said these coronavirus times have caused a lot of stress, but for the North Linn activities director it’s been “good stress” lately.

Although Hilmer wasn’t sure a high school baseball or softball season was a good idea, it’s been hugely successful for the Lynx.

The North Linn baseball team advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals Monday with a 2-1 win over Durant in Des Moines and the softball team sailed into the 2A state semifinals in Fort Dodge with a 10-0, five-inning win over Ridge View on Tuesday.

“It was definitely a win for us,” Hilmer said of the summer seasons.

Hilmer, at first, wasn’t on board, but said “overall it wasn’t terrible. The preseason part was the hardest because everybody, including the softball coaches and baseball coaches, all thought we weren’t going to have a season.”

He said teams had “a short window for a lot of preparation.”

Despite having a son on the baseball team, Hilmer said if it was his decision he probably wouldn’t have had a summer sports season. He since has changed his mind.

“Looking back, I think based on the number of schools that finished their seasons that it was worth doing,” he said. “Especially for our community because we had no contact with anybody with COVID-19.”

In addition to the stress of state title possibilities, Hilmer has turned his attention to fall sports.

With more unknown than known, Hilmer believes high school sports will parallel with college sports.

“If colleges aren’t doing certain sports, I would find it hard to believe high schools are going to,” he said.

Hilmer questions how football and volleyball will work. Football, Hilmer said, was ranked highest on a risk-factor chart done by the Iowa High School Athletic Association, along with wrestling.

Football being much more contact than baseball makes it hard to keep socially distanced. Also, having volleyball inside makes it easier for COVID-19 to spread. Bigger rosters also don’t help the odds.

Hilmer’s hoping fall sports go “the same as softball and baseball.” If the IHSAA comes up with guidelines for fall sports, Hilmer said winter sports will be a no-brainer.

Hilmer hasn’t really prepared anything for fall sports because of all the unknowns.

“What people don’t realize is if we go and set up all this stuff on what we want to try and do,” Hilmer said, “then they (the IHSAA) come out with their own guidelines and you can’t do a few of the things you set up. Then you’ve wasted your time.”

Hilmer is waiting for the state to release its guidelines for fall sports and will go from there. He expects them to mirror some of the summer rules like taking temperatures at home before practices and games.

A small thing Hilmer really enjoyed about having the softball and baseball seasons was there were less concerns about playing time and parents were just happy and appreciative of their kids getting a chance to play. When something gets threatened, it truly makes people much more appreciative of it.

Hilmer also appreciated the fact good social distancing made it harder to hear every word yelled at an umpire.

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The worst part about the season in Hilmer’s eyes was making sure coaches were consistently following guidelines. That consistent messaging and constant reminders, however, helped North Linn athletes and teams stay coronavirus free throughout their season.

An honorable mention for worst part would be not being able to have concession stands and having to hang signs from the IHSAA.

“It took an entire afternoon just to figure out how to get those (signs) posted to where people could see and be visible without them blowing away,” he said.

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